Of Mice and Men

Rabbits Symbol Icon

For Lennie, rabbits represent an escape from the obstacles he faces as a mentally-disabled man. While George fantasizes of his and Lennie’s future farm as an alternate reality where he can be free, independent, and beholden to nobody, Lennie’s major fantasy about the farm is that it will be a place where he can tend and raise rabbits. Due to his unspecified mental disability, Lennie has long had a preoccupation with touching and stroking soft things—a fixation which, due to the overuse his great physical strength, has killed the animals he’s pet and gotten him in trouble time and time again. But when Lennie dreams of raising rabbits, the fantasy is that he will be able to indulge in his greatest pleasure without doing the objects of his affection any harm, or bringing any upon himself. However, Lennie is never able to realize this dream, as he accidentally kills Curley’s wife after stroking her hair too forcefully, and is then mercifully shot to death by George to escape the wrath of the other laborers. Rabbits, then, are a symbol of the hope for freedom—both from society’s expectations, and from one’s own personal limitations. The fact that Lennie never gets his rabbits, however, darkly implies that those who are marginalized or disabled can never truly be free of the difficulties and judgment they face, and that these limitations are often impossible to overcome.

Rabbits Quotes in Of Mice and Men

The Of Mice and Men quotes below all refer to the symbol of Rabbits. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Broken Plans Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Penguin Books edition of Of Mice and Men published in 1993.
Part 5 Quotes

“I think I knowed from the very first. I think I knowed we'd never do her. He usta like to hear about it so much I got to thinking maybe we would.”

Related Characters: George Milton (speaker), Lennie Small
Page Number: 94
Explanation and Analysis:
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Rabbits Symbol Timeline in Of Mice and Men

The timeline below shows where the symbol Rabbits appears in Of Mice and Men. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part 1
Male Friendship Theme Icon
The Weak and the Strong Theme Icon
...him because he killed them all. Lennie says that if the two of them had rabbits, he’d be able to keep them alive because “they ain’t so little” as mice. (full context)
Broken Plans Theme Icon
The American Dream Theme Icon
Male Friendship Theme Icon
Lennie asks George to tell him “about the rabbits.” George says he doesn’t want to, but when Lennie begs to hear about them, George... (full context)
Broken Plans Theme Icon
The American Dream Theme Icon
Male Friendship Theme Icon
...and Lennie will save up enough money to buy a little farm of livestock and rabbits. Lennie excitedly says they’ll soon “live off the fatta the lan.” George continues describing an... (full context)
Broken Plans Theme Icon
Male Friendship Theme Icon
The Weak and the Strong Theme Icon
Minorities, Marginalization, and Scapegoating Theme Icon
...well, and tells him that if he continues behaving, he’ll be allowed to tend the rabbits on their land someday. (full context)
Broken Plans Theme Icon
Male Friendship Theme Icon
The Weak and the Strong Theme Icon
...reminds him that if he does something bad, he won’t be allowed to tend the rabbits. Lennie promises to stay out of trouble. (full context)
Broken Plans Theme Icon
The American Dream Theme Icon
...of their bindles. As they drift off to sleep, Lennie imagines aloud the many different-colored rabbits he’ll have one day.  (full context)
Part 3
Broken Plans Theme Icon
The American Dream Theme Icon
Male Friendship Theme Icon
...the lush, fertile farm they’ll live on. They’ll plant alfalfa, harvest an orchard, and raise rabbits. As George goes deeper and deeper into detail about the imagined place, he gets lost... (full context)
The American Dream Theme Icon
Male Friendship Theme Icon
Lennie continues focusing intensely on the fantasy of raising—and petting—as many rabbits as he wants. Both Lennie and George are so lost in their reverie that when... (full context)
Broken Plans Theme Icon
Male Friendship Theme Icon
The Weak and the Strong Theme Icon
...asks George if he’s in trouble, and whether he’ll still be allowed to tend the rabbits. George assures Lennie that he’s done nothing wrong. (full context)
Part 4
Broken Plans Theme Icon
The American Dream Theme Icon
Male Friendship Theme Icon
The Weak and the Strong Theme Icon
Minorities, Marginalization, and Scapegoating Theme Icon
...chickens, and grow alfalfa. Lennie says that he is going to grow alfalfa for his rabbits when he and George have a farm of their own. Crooks calls Lennie “nuts” and... (full context)
Broken Plans Theme Icon
The American Dream Theme Icon
...some figuring and has found a way for them to turn a profit on the rabbits once they move onto their farm. Crooks “brutally” interrupts Candy to tell him that he... (full context)
Male Friendship Theme Icon
The Weak and the Strong Theme Icon
Minorities, Marginalization, and Scapegoating Theme Icon
...he doesn’t mind Lennie visiting. Candy excitedly begins telling George what he’s figured about the rabbits. George reminds Candy that he was supposed to keep their venture a secret. Candy retorts... (full context)
Part 5
Broken Plans Theme Icon
The American Dream Theme Icon
The Weak and the Strong Theme Icon
...if George finds out he has killed the puppy, he won’t be allowed to tend rabbits in the future. In a fit of anger, fear, and frustration, Lennie picks the puppy... (full context)
Broken Plans Theme Icon
The American Dream Theme Icon
The Weak and the Strong Theme Icon
...doesn’t know about the dead puppy, Lennie reasons, he won’t stop Lennie from tending the rabbits. Curley’s wife asks Lennie why he’s so obsessed with rabbits, and Lennie replies that he... (full context)
Part 6
Broken Plans Theme Icon
Male Friendship Theme Icon
The Weak and the Strong Theme Icon
...says there’s no point in staying with George, because George will never let him tend rabbits now. (full context)
Broken Plans Theme Icon
The Weak and the Strong Theme Icon
Aunt Clara morphs into a giant rabbit. The rabbit tells Lennie he “ain’t fit to lick the boots of no rabbit,” and... (full context)
Broken Plans Theme Icon
The American Dream Theme Icon
Male Friendship Theme Icon
The Weak and the Strong Theme Icon
Minorities, Marginalization, and Scapegoating Theme Icon
...of Lennie’s skull as he continues spinning the familiar yarn about a farm with animals, rabbits, and a big alfalfa patch. He assures Lennie that Lennie will get to tend the... (full context)